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Winter blunderland
Rain, sleet turn streets into skating rinks, topple trees
Sat, December 2, 2006

A municipality east of Ottawa declared a state-of-emergency last night as freezing rain left people across the region in the dark.

Hydro One reported power would be out for 40,000 customers from Brockville to the Quebec border at least overnight and until Sunday for the hardest hit areas.

Russell Twp. swore in new Mayor Ken Hill ahead of Monday's planned ceremony so he could declare a state of emergency just after 6:30 p.m.

Ice-coated trees and powerlines toppled across the township, closing roads and cutting off power.

"A minimum of 20 hydro poles are down," emergency information officer Sebastien Goyer said. "There is a general blackout throughout the township."

Police and paramedics were at work last night making sure nursing homes had generators, Goyer said.

A shelter was set up at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Russell with a second planned for the Enbrun recreation hall.

Hydro One reported that power went out for 45,000 customers in the region -- including Osgoode and North Gower -- in the afternoon.

No power overnight

Every available crew was sent to start repairs but 40,000 customers were expected to be without power overnight.

Restoration efforts will continue into tomorrow for the hardest-hit areas, the utility warned.

Most of eastern, central and southern Ontario had regions experiencing significant power failures.

Roads turned from delightful to frightful in a matter of hours as freezing rain iced the ground in time for the afternoon commute.

City and provincial police reported few problems until mid-afternoon when cars started sliding into ditches just as trees and hydro lines fell.

Areas of Ottawa also experienced power-related problems throughout the day, forcing city cops out of cruisers and onto the roads to direct traffic through at least 16 intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights.

Const. Steven Desjourdy said there weren't major weather-related incidents in the city, but police were dealing with "a lot of small things."

A driver was trapped but unhurt when a tree fell on a car at Springfield and Lindenlea roads in Rockcliffe.

Another fallen tree on Strathcona Ave. in the Glebe nicked a gas meter, but the leak was quickly fixed.

Trees were down all over the city -- even briefly closing Bank St. at Chamberlain -- and several roads were closed in the Manotick area.

Stay off the roads

"We're asking people if they can to stay off the roads," west division Staff Sgt. Phil Tennant said early last evening.

The eastern region OPP communications centre in Smiths Falls had taken about 1,600 calls by evening, about double the typical number.

"We've got all kinds of calls, lots of power lines down, trees down, poles down," Sgt. Jason Butcher said. "It's similar -- not the same magnitude -- to the ice storm of '98."

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